How To Get Your Kids To Eat While Traveling
How to get kids to eat (even at home) is always an interesting question and one I've found the answer to varies widely from state to state and culture to culture. In our family we were pretty inspired by that book Bringing Up Bebé, about the American woman raising her kids in France. Basically it comes down to eating on a set schedule of meals and snacks each day AND the kids eat the same thing as adults, just a bit less.
1. Start With The Familiar
At the beginning of trips we make sure to bring a few things that are familiar so the kids have something we know they will enjoy while we get our bearings and get over jet lag. Usually for us this involves a few things for breakfast like packets of oatmeal that you just add water to and some granola bars. Then for the rest of the day we have a couple things we can give them like fruit leather or goldfish.
When you start introducing new foods, choose things with ingredients that you knkow they like. My girls love tomatos, olives, cheese, salami, yogurt, fruit and tend to prefer chicken over beef. With that in mind, when we try new foods we aim at things that have at least one or two things in them that we already know they enjoy - even if they are in a new combination.
2. Don't Decide What They Will & Won't Like
This one used to be tough for me. It's easy to just assume they they won't like new or seamingly strange things (even things that you don't like). Maybe they will like them, maybe they won't but let them try something first before making that judgement (especially if they've chosen it themselves). When we were staying in Morocco I was super surprised that my girls enjoyed eating fried sardines as a snack and was even more surprised at how much my one year old loved lampredotto (marinated and slow cooked 4th stomach of a cow, with a zesty sauce on a crusty bun). Let them explore new tastes for themselves without adding your predjudices.
3. Give Loose Definitions
We actually stumbled upon this on accident but have found that having loose definitions of what we are eating helps the girls try new things. For instance, in our family the term "chicken nugget" refers to the size of a piece of chicken rather than a specific chicken preparation. As long as it's a bite size piece of chicken it's a chicken nugget - no matter what kind of chicken it is. It could be chicken parmesan, a moroccan chicken tagine or roasted chicked but as long as you cut it small enough, its a chicken nugget.
It's also helpful to be slightly vague if you're the more adventurous eater in the family. Johnny does this to me sometimes when he finds something tasty that he knows I wont try if I know the specifics but will love if I just eat it. So instead of telling me that it is pig intestine wrapped around a spit and cooked forever with aromatics he'll say something like "it's pork", the same thing works on kids. Extra points if it's vague in the direction of something they like.
4. Know When To Try New Things
For the most part we try not to have the kids try something super new or crazy when they are tired, teething or not feeling well. Additionally, it is best to feed them new things when they're actually hungry (not right after a snack). It's true what they say about hunger being the best seasoning.
5. Some Countries Wont Accomodate Pickyness
I know this is about getting kids to eat but I had to learn to be less picky as well sometimes. It is often "not possible" to substititute the components of a meal or request changes like only mustard and pickles on your cheeseburger. We especially found it to be the case in the Czech Republic and Poland. This can actually work in your favor toward having less picky eaters if the only option given to the kids is exactly whats on the menu. You can then just shrug and say "Sorry baby, that's the rule".
6. Most Countries Have Grocery Stores
Lets be honest, we've been travelling around Europe (for the most part) and while some things are very new and different a lot of what we eat here is the same or similar to what we eat in America. Most days we eat at least a couple meals at our AirBnB so we have a lot of familiar foods though we do try to get local ingredients and spices at the grocery stores.
The markets tend to be smaller but there are plenty of options if you have a really picky child (or spouse) or if your children are wildly jet lagged and only want to eat bananas and yogurt for a couple days. I have noticed however, if you are looking for baby specific snack foods there are generally fewer options and they can be quite expensive.
I hope these tips have helped and as always if you have things that work well for your family please share them in the comments.